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Contingent Call of the Pipe: Binging and Addiction Among Heavy Cocaine Smokers (From Crack in America: Demon Drugs and Social Justice, P 77-97, 1997, Craig Reinarman and Harry G Levine, eds. - See NCJ-170648)

NCJ Number
C Reinarman; D Waldorf; S B Murphy; H G Levine
Date Published
21 pages
The prevailing image of crack is one of an instantly addicting drug that inevitably destroys the lives of those who use it, and media sources frequently claim crack causes all sorts of criminal activities, including violence, robbery, theft, and prostitution.
The authors distinguish, however, between binging and addiction and cite evidence indicating crack does not inevitably destroy the lives of users. They interviewed crack and freebase smokers as part of a larger study of heavy cocaine users that included the most extreme 10 percent of cocaine users in the United States. Crack users and freebasers were not ordinary illicit drug users. By their own accounts, they repeatedly sought extreme highs; their active pursuit of intense drug experiences was not substantially different from individuals who drink alcohol to become high. Reports of crack users and freebasers indicated three respects in which the prevailing image of crack is false: (1) the prevailing image falsely generalizes from heavy crack users to all who may experiment with the drug; (2) binging and addictive behaviors often occur within a smoking episode and a great deal of time may transpire between episodes; and (3) crack does not inevitably destroy the lives of users but rather causes temporary disruptions in many cases. In addition, the authors believe media coverage of crack disproportionately covers poor versus affluent social classes, fueling public misperceptions about the extent of the drug problem and explaining why consequences of crack use are focused on inner- city areas. How individuals become crack users and freebasers and effects of crack use are examined. 25 references and 10 notes